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MISSOULA (AP) — A Drummond man received a two-year deferred sentence Tuesday — not for striking a woman with his pickup — but for driving away and leaving her vulnerable to being hit and killed by another vehicle.

"We did not allege that his driving caused any negligent acts," said Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg, but what Erik Lee didn't do was negligent.

Lee pleaded guilty to negligent homicide in the death of University of Montana Russian language professor Marina Kenevskaya as part of a plea agreement reached in March.

District Judge John Henson said two years' probation was unusually light in such a case, but Van Valkenburg said it was appropriate because there was no evidence that Lee was drinking or speeding.

Lee hit Kanevskaya with his truck on the night of Dec. 13 and knocked her down as she was crossing a street near the campus.

Police said Lee stopped, checked his truck and drove away without seeing Kanevskaya in the road. Kanevskaya was likely killed by a second driver who could not see her in the road. The second driver was not ticketed.

"He could have rendered some aid to her and protected her from the second vehicle," Van Valkenburg said.

Lee's attorney, Morgan Modine, said a deferred sentence would allow his client to keep his logging job and pay Kanevskaya's medical and funeral expenses.

Copyright © 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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